The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) held a STEM workshop in conjunction with Bindura University of Science Education (BUSE) from 28th October to 1st November 2019 under the theme, Re-imagining and Re-thinking STEM Instructional Strategies in the Digital Era. The workshop was opened by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development, Professor Fanuel Tagwira, who was represented by the BUSE Vice Chancellor, Professor Eddie Mwenje.
The workshop participants were drawn from universities and colleges around Zimbabwe.
The overall goal of the workshop was capacity building for educators. This included equipping teacher trainers with hands on experience on the application of different innovative technologies to enhance the teaching of STEM. Other objectives of the workshop included introducing STEM teacher trainers to the latest technologies offering opportunities for instruction and the creation of scientific educational content particularly in programming, coding, editing and 3D printing. The workshop also aimed at developing a framework for integrating micro-science, artificial intelligence and robotics into the secondary school education curriculum
The key activities of the workshop included application of artificial intelligence, robotics, gamification, project based learning and blended learning in STEM education.
In his opening address, Professor Tagwira underscored the importance of a STEM educator to students. He said the educator played an important role in the development of innovative and critical thinking skills which are critical for the implementation of the country’s heritage-based education as enunciated in the Education 5.0 doctrine. He added that innovativeness in students was important for the industrialisation and modernisation of the country.
Professor Tagwira highlighted that the STEM workshop marked an important milestone in the history of teacher training as the country moved towards making significant changes in STEM education pedagogy across the education system.
The Guest of Honour challenged the Government and education sector to urgently reimagine and rethink the instructional strategies focusing on both STEM and soft skills.
The UNESCO ROSA representative, Professor Martiale Zebaze Kana delivered a speech on behalf of Professor Hubert Gijzen, the Regional Director of UNESCO – Regional Office for Southern Africa. He fingered the problems bedeviling the development of STEM education which included less of attraction to undertake science subjects at secondary and tertiary levels; lack of laboratories for experimental studies; inaccessibility of conventional scientific experimental equipment; lack of technological innovation and theory based teaching.
Professor Kana talked about the practical approach to experiencing science using UNESCO micro-science kits. He urged workshop participants to effectively apply information and new tools introduced in the workshop in their classrooms. “UNESCO will continue to work with the Government of Zimbabwe and other stakeholders to facilitate and promote the implementation of the new curriculum and strengthen STEM education in Zimbabwe.
In his welcome address, Professor Mwenje thanked UNESCO for sponsoring such an important workshop.” To BUSE, this workshop is close to our hearts as a science institution. We have run Science and Mathematics teacher workshops at national and international level in the past,” he said.
He emphasised that BUSE was taking STEM as an urgent and important issue. He however highlighted that the institution’s effort to maximize the impact of technology in the Zimbabwean education sector was being hampered by the teaching staff who had not yet embraced ICT’s in their classrooms. “What pains most is that if we do not take technology seriously, we are doing a disservice to the society – they will remain behind.” He added that the STEM workshop was however going to help the university’s teaching staff to reimagine and rethink the instructional strategies focusing on both STEM and soft skills.
Professor Mwenje added that the two partners, BUSE and UNESCO had convened the STEM workshop as a response to calls by the Zimbabwe National Critical Skills Audit committee to the nation to increase the number and quality of the Mathematics and Science teaching experts who can embrace ICT’s in their classrooms.
Present at the official opening were officials from UNESCO, BUSE executives, Chairpersons and officials from different media houses.